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In an outstanding game of rugby, that could have gone either way, Casson’s try was handed up to the television match official who deemed the ball had not gone forward and awarded the try to break the hearts of over 10,000 Irish supporters.
Ben Botica put the visitor’s six points clear after eight minutes with two penalty goals after referee Wigglesworth pinged Irish for being offside and a breakdown infringement respectively.
Guy Armitage scored his first try for the club on 13 minutes thanks to fantastic work by Jamie Gibson. Initially Ian Humphreys chipped the ball over the top for Ojo to claim and pass back inside to debutant, Anthony Watson. Quins turned the ball over and Gibson was on hand to charge the ball down from Ben Botica’s clearance with the ball falling nicely into the hands of Armitage who touched down for the try. Ian Humphreys converted to put Irish ahead.
Conor O’Shea’s side edged into the lead with an opportunistic score by their in-form scrum half, Danny Care. The England man claimed the ball on the Exiles 10 metre line and sprinted away to score under the posts. Botica’s conversion gave Quins a 13-7 advantage.
Humphreys kicked two penalty goals to put the host’s level. Botica briefly put Quins back in front before Humphreys kicked his third to take the sides into the sheds at half time level.
The two fly half’s traded penalties at the start of the second stanza with very little to choose between the teams.
The try of the match came on 52 minutes and was expertly constructed and finished by the visitors. Nick Easter carried the ball from the scrum, passed to Care who offloaded to Hopper. The former Cornish Pirate flipped the ball to Botica who found Tom Williams who finished in the corner. Botica’s conversion went over off the post to give Harlequins a seven point lead.
Irish played their way back into the match by controlling the ball and playing in the right positions on the park. Ian Humphreys was able to take advantage of Harequins poor discipline and kicked three consecutive penalties to put the hosts in front with seven minutes left.
London Irish defended valiantly for the final few minutes but Harlequins persistence, and a TMO decision, saw them claim a late victory.
London Irish travel to Sale next Friday evening for their next Aviva Premiership match.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-3, 0-6, 7-6, 7-13, 10-13, 13-13, 13-16, 16-16, 16-19, 19-19, 19-26, 22-26, 25-26, 28-26, 28-31
Scorers: London Irish: Tries: Armitage (13); Conversions: Humphreys (1); Penalties: Humphreys (18, 28, 34, 51, 55, 67, 73) Harlequins: Penalties: Botica (5, 8, 32, 48); Tries: Care (16), Williams (52), Casson (79); Conversions: Botica (2)
London Irish team
15. Anthony Watson; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Jonathan Joseph (rep: Steven Shingler, 64); 12. Guy Armitage; 11. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 10. Ian Humphreys; 9. Tomás O’Leary (rep: Darren Allinson, 40); 1. Max Lahiff (rep: Cai Griffiths, 78); 2. David Paice (rep: Scott Lawson, 64); 3. Halani Aulika (rep: Leo Halavatau, 64); 4. Bryn Evans; 5. Matt Garvey; 6. Declan Danaher (Captain); 7. Jamie Gibson; 8. Chris Hala’ufia (rep: Ofisa Treviranus, 53)
Replacements: 16. Scott Lawson; 17. Cai Griffiths; 18. Leo Halavatau; 19. Kieran Low; 20. Ofisa Treviranus; 21. Alex Gray; 22. Steven Shingler; 23. Darren Allinson
15. Mike Brown; 14. Tom Williams; 13. Matt Hopper; 12. Tom Casson; 11. Ugo Monye; 10. Ben Botica; 9. Danny Care; 1. Joe Marler; 2. Rob Buchanan (rep: Dave Ward, 48); 3. James Johnston (REP: Will Collier, 67); 4. Olly Kohn; 5. George Robson; 6. Tom Guest; 7. Chris Robshaw (Captain) (rep: Maurie Fa’asavalu, 32); 8. Nick Easter
Replacements: 16. Dave Ward; 17. Mark Lambert; 18. Will Collier; 19. Charlie Matthews; 20. Maurie Fa’asavalu; 21. Karl Dickson; 22. Rory Clegg; 23. Seb Stegmann
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth